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Catalytic converter thefts on the rise across the Valley

Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 23, 2021

On the rise across the Valley, cars are being targeted for a valuable part -- one that could bring thieves a lot of money and leave you with a big cost.

It's called a catalytic converter. It is part of your car's exhaust system, filtering out chemicals so they don't end up in the atmosphere.

Natasha contacted us when one was cut from her car -- the whole job taking only minutes.

In the surveillance video she shared with us, you can see a van park next to Natasha's SUV at her work in Mesa. If you look closely, you see a person leave through the back door. It's a thief and what he's stealing under the car won't be known until later.

"It's just loud. It's like my muffler fell off," said Natasha about the noise it made as she tried to leave work.

Converter Thefts
Marty Boyer checks underneath his sports utility vehicle in the parking lot where a catalytic converter was recently stolen off another SUV he owns, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, in Cincinnati. A half dozen other employees at the company Boyer works at, have had catalytic converters stolen in the same area. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

She says her husband was the one who discovered the damage done.

"He looked underneath the car, and he said, 'they chopped your catalytic converter off,'" said Natasha.

The crime is big across the country and Arizona with many police departments taking notice, tracking the thefts as a separate category.

Since January 1, Goodyear says they have seen 49 thefts. In Chandler, 139 thefts or attempted thefts, and in Tempe, 337 "incidents."

Other departments Like Phoenix police and Mesa said they've seen an increase, but didn't have data available.

So why are catalytic converters such a target?

"I would say an average (catalytic converter) in today's current climate that a thief steals is worth a couple hundred," said Mike Pierson, CEO and President of Arizona Auto Parts, a registered auto reseller.

He says catalytic converters aren't usually resold as parts - in fact, federal law prohibits it.

Instead, he says they are melted down for their small amounts of precious metals - not to mention the cost to you.

"To replace it you're looking at, depending on the vehicle, $800 to $1,200," said Pierson.

He says there are ways to make your catalytic converter less desirable like etching your VIN number onto it so it can be traced. He says spray painting it another color could help too.

"A lot of buyers won't buy it without asking a whole other layer of questions, because that's kind of like a red flag," said Mike.

There are also converter shields. They can cost a couple of hundred dollars, but if thieves see them on higher-profile SUVs and trucks they normally target, they may just move on.

Natasha has her own advice for owners.

"If you can, always park backing into your spots or your front end... towards the traffic," said Natasha. That way, it would be easier to see the thieves.

She also says you should mix up where you park. She says she feels her car was watched and targeted because of where she parks.